Where Charter Bargaining Agreements Fall Short

Article excerpt

ABOUT 12 PERCENT OF CHARTER schools in the United States have collective bargaining agreements with their unions, either by a state mandate or as part of an individual school's mission. These union contracts--the first generation of such agreements--generally include unique innovations and are more streamlined, according to a new study by the University of Washington's Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE). Released on Dec. 5, "Are Charter School Unions Worth the Bargain?" examines nine charter schools in urban areas such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Boston.

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The major differences in the charter contracts examined include faster grievance processes, avenues for teacher input on organizational decisions, more discretion for principals to determine layoffs, and longer and more flexible workdays and school years. While these elements are viewed as groundbreaking, Mitch Price, legal analyst for CRPE and author of the report, says the inventive provisions generally end here.

"The agreements are more streamlined and flexible in certain areas, but not as innovative as I would have imagined," says Price. "However, when you're working with negotiators and teachers coming from traditional public schools, it's understandable they wouldn't be as different as you'd imagine." For example, says Price, the provisions regarding salaries model traditional contracts and generally do not factor student performance in teacher evaluations. …